Saturday, September 26, 2015

Dividing Day

My shopping list for today:
  • Seep hose
  • 50' extension cord
  • Mulch
It's the last weekend in September - time to divide the perennials, dig up the neglected beds, and mulch for the winter.

When I started perennial gardening, tumpty-ump years ago in St. Paul Minnesota, I thought I was doing it because it was less work than planting annuals. I like stuff that stays planted! I used to stay. Right? Just plant it and then relax and watch it bloom for years to come.

ROFLMFAO, as we used to say.

In reality, perennial gardening demands composting, weeding, mulching, dividing, and moving plants that are didn't get the memo to bloom where you are planted.

Without attention, by fall, a perennial bed will look kind of like this:

Dry, crowded, weedy. This bed needs to be dug out, the keepers set aside, the weeds pulled, and the dirt mixed with compost and replaced. Either the bed will have to get larger or I will have to discard some plants, because they have all thrived so well they are crowding each other out. I just redid a smaller bed, which now looks like this:

Expanding the bed means even more work next year - and more mulch, which gets expensive. In past I have not had the heart to discard perfectly good plants, so I expand the beds, or start new ones.

Then I started reading The Right Size Flower Garden, by Maine author Kerry Ann Mendez. After some life changes left her with less time and energy to devote to her perennials, Mendez had a choice: let the garden fall into disarray, or limit the garden to the space she could take care of. The book details shrinking beds, planning garden care, and choosing plants that require little attention. I've already started, with two raised bed which were, after many years, too shady for their inhabitants. Pull 'em out, sod 'em over!

Each year, of course, the garden is all about next year's garden: when this finally blooms or that fills in.  This fall I am excited for next year, when I will (hopefully) have time to keep the remaining beds looking sharp all season.